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As if life were very dreary
Why are you not like school boys merry?
" 'Tis Black Monday!"
Why on the road you hesitate
And stare in anger and in hate
At your school's wide open gate?
" 'Tis Black Monday!"
Why come to school with looks of pain
As if still smarting from the cane
Why all this chaos and trouble in vain?
" 'Tis Black Monday!"
When I was Young
A pirate I would be,
I'd turn the table upside down,
And call the floor the sea.
The table was, of course, my ship,
And oft was she afloat;
And many times I've had a trip
In my own pirate boat.
I'd sail for many days at once,
When I was after tin.
A proper pirate I was then,
And very bold, but thin.
A sword I'd carry at my side,
A pistol in my hand,
I'd search the Straits both far and wide,
A pirate's life was grand!
I always had to get back safe
When it was time for bed,
Or nurse would come and carry me,
No matter what I said.
A pirate carried from his ship
To go to bed's absurd.
But if I tried to scream or kick,
Nurse answered - "Not a word."
I was born on March 15th, 1915, in a rikisha factory in Japan, and on the next day I was bought by a Chinese, who brought me over to Kuala Lumpur. I liked Kuala Lumpur, because there were few people living in the town, and I was very seldom used.
After living in Kuala Lumpur for a long time, my master sold me to one of his friends for fifty dollars. The man, I am sorry to say, did not like me, for he put me into a shop, and asked the shop-keeper to sell me. I remained there for a month, and then I was sold by the shop-keeper to a Cantonese rikisha-puller.
This man was very reckless, for he had many accidents. So he sold me to a Hylam rikisha-puller, who used me in a very different way, for he kept me clean and tidy. He also polished my mud-guards with Brasso, until he could see his face reflected in them.
In spite of all this care, one day he left me on the side of the road, while he went to drink a cup of water. Then a hired car came along and driver, who was drunk, collided with me, and smashed me up into small pieces.
A School Black-board
I was born in the year 1923 in a carpenter's shop. This shop was situated near our school, in High Street. Before that time my parents were living in a very large jungle away in the north of the Malay Peninsula. One day I was cut down by some wood-cutters, who told me that they would sell me to a carpenter, who would make me into a black-board.
When I was living in the jungle, I was not like a black-board at all; I was only a very large tree. When I was brought to the shop, I was cut in the shape of a black-board. Then I was varnished, and sold to a school known as the Victoria Institution, where I was put into a class-room.
The teachers took great care of me, and the boys, too, used me kindly and cleaned me with a black-board cleaner. I thought the boys who sat in front of me were very bright, and I am glad to say that it was partly through my help that the boys became so clever.
During the third year of my life I was, by accident, knocked down by a floor-sweeper and broken to pieces. The Head Master said that I was too old and not fit to remain in the class-room. I was taken to the kitchen and used for firewood.
The Examination and After
I did not feel anything! People said: "You will feel nervous when you enter the Exam Hall." I never thought of nervoussness, maybe because it was in our own hall and amongst my own classmates. Yet on the exam day, I went with ink and pen and ruler (all new) forgetting all about nervousness, but thinking more of the dignity of my position, and eager to try the novel experience of sitting for an exam.
Only once my heart began to throb violently, and that was when I took up my pen to write my essay - this was the first paper. At length I forgot all about nervousness being absorbed in thinking out matter for my essay. I went on writing silently. Now and then I became conscious that many boys were around me, that I was in an Exam Hall, and that sharp eyes were looking around to see that no foul play was going on. It made me a little nervous, but again I became oblivious of it, as I had not finished my essay.
At last I finished my Essay. I gave it the final touches and looked around. All boys had also, it seemed, finished theirs. Some were giving up their papers, while others were reading theirs over. I, too, went and handed in my paper; and then returned to my seat.
Now the hall was no more silent. All boys were talking to one another. I spoke to my neighbours, and asked them how they had fared. Some sat pale and shivering, for they had done badly. Others were beaming with joy, for they thought they had done well! Soon the hall again became silent, while the other paper of the day was being given out; and I again became absorbed in my work.
The Dictation period was the most momentous occasion; all boys looked eager and pale; for, failing in it meant the ruin of one's work - the waste of one long and toilsome year!
The boys were very quiet when they went in; then and only then did I feel really nervous! The "dictator" stood up and read the piece once. His voice was new to us, and I did not catch some of his words. Then he read it again and, in breathless silence, we all took it down. For the third time, he read it and we were able to correct some of our mistakes.
At last "Pens down" was ordered, and we were asked to give up our papers. All crowded round the place to give them up. At that moment I saw a boy who had found a mistake he had made. He wanted to correct it, but the order was "Pens down." He looked around him piteously - no masters were near, and he reached for his pen - and - but still he dared not. He gave up his paper, and went out!
The first paper and the Dictation paper only made us feel uneasy. We soon became used to it, and for the rest of the days we went in and out feeling at ease. The last day was the most jolly, for on that day ended all our anxieties and cramming. No more was the midnight candle to be lit. No more need we worry! All boys were gay and merry, but one thing always haunted me, and I am sure it must have haunted all those who took the exam. Could I pass?
Bicycle Ride to Singapore
The idea of attempting this hazardous trip was first conceived by C. J. Manuel, who with the co-operation of Chan Kim Chong, Kwok Ah Keng, Lim Tai Hee, and Chan Kon Kee, successfully made all the preparations. The time appointed for our departure from Kuala Lumpur was 6 a.m., on Monday, 28th December, 1925, and, by that time, only the above members out of the fourteen who had promised turned out in spite of the cold morning, and a start was made after we had had tea at Lim Tai Hee's home. The party looked very cheerful in cadet uniform, and througnout journey attracted quite a large number of onlookers who, hearing of our intentions, declared that we were mad to make such a journey.
We were not discouraged in the least, and reached Kajang about 7 a.m.having finished with bad roads for the moment. After we had our breakfast in this town, - more like a village than a district capital, - we pedalled on towards Seremban. Before the start we were given a choice of two roads, one hilly, and the other quite flat but ten miles in distance! Nevertheless we were optimistic, and took the hilly road, ready for anything that might befall us. The journey uphill was heartbreaking. One of the party met with an accident and had it not been for foresight of another member who had the requisite remedy, we might been delayed for a long time. Even motor cars on this particular found great difficulty in climbing the hill. At last we reached the summit, and our ride downhill was splendid. So steep was the road in places that a bicyclist without good brakes might easily crash down into the ravines below.
By noon, Seremban was reached without the slightest hitch, and after tiffin we left for Tampin at 3 p.m. From here onwards, as far as Muar, we pedalled on the best roads in the Peninsula. Our task from Seremban to Tampin was an easy one, and at times an average of 15 miles an hour was reached. I quite remember that once we did 6 miles in 20 minutes! We reached Tampin before dusk, and here we had a pleasant time at Annay Kunaratnam's house, for he had made elaborate preparations for our arrival. On the first night we were indeed very sleepy as most of us were overcome with fatigue, for we had done approximately 75 miles that day.
Early the next day, Tuesday, 29th December, we arose and prepared to start. Unfortunately, we delayed for some time, and later had good cause to regret our bad start. On our way from Tampin we entered Malacca Territory with its vast fields of padi on both sides of the road, a common spectacle in these parts. At noon Malacca was reached, and immediately after tiffin we left for Muar, foreseeing the distance we had to travel that day. As soon as we had started, rain came down in torrents and continued for nearly the whole of that and the following days. Two of the party, who had forgotten to bring their raincoats, were drenched to the skin.
Muar was sighted about six in the evening, and, after crossing the river by ferry, we left for Batu Pahat which was our next halting place for the night. We had scarcely done ten miles when one of our bicycles was punctured. It was already night, and finding that we had no friends at Batu Pahat, we sent two of the party on ahead so that they might make arrangements for the night. The advance party reached Batu Pahat after a fifteen mile ride, and prepared everything. The remaining three who stopped behind began their work of patching the tube - we had the necessary outfit with us. This only took a short time, and we then resumed our journey, reaching Batu Pahat at about 10 p.m. This was the result of our late start from Tampin! After a wash and a meal we went to sleep in a lodging house.
The third day, Wednesday, 30th December, was a memorable one. We left Batu Pahat soon after tea and started our ride to Johore Bahru. The whole journey from Batu Pahat was done on bad, unmetalled roads. Even motor cars found it difficult to run smoothly. At some moments we almost decided to give up our attempt, but with better hopes for the future, we carried on, ashamed to leave unfinished what we had begun so nobly. For the whole day our way was through thick jungle, and we hardly saw any cars or human beings. Without a sip of water, hot, and a little weary, we cycled on.
At last, about 3 p.m., we arrived at Johore Bahru, eager for our makan. Afterwards, we left for Singapore by the causeway, which we crossed at a fast rate. Singapore was reached at about 6 p.m., and we moved off to Tanjong Katong, where Chan Kim Chong's uncle placed his bungalow at our disposal. Makan finished, we quietly tucked ourselves into our beds, delighted that we had realised our ambitious aspirations, unprecedented in Kuala Lumpur, and accomplished for the first time by Victorians.
Our stay in Singapore was very enjoyable. Great kindness was shown us by all who came in contact with us, and we were congratulated on our success. On Saturday, January 2nd, 1926, we called on Mr. Granville Roberts of the Malaya Tribune, who was surprised to hear of our achievements. He very kindly showed us his printing machines, and on the following day we called.on him again by appointment. He took us to the G. H. Sweet Shop where we had tea, and then we went round the town in "lordly" cars. We also visited the site of the Naval Base where work is now in progress.
To return to Kuala Lumpur was our next thought, and after considering the troubles we had undergone together with the hopeless condition of the Johore roads we decided to return by sea. We therefore left Singapore by boat for Port Swettenham on Tuesday morning. After tea cycled back to Kuala Lumpur, having travelled some three hundred miles.
Last update on 23 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min